Ordure In the Court

Once, I was on trial for aiding and abetting fugitives, a charge which I incurred when I took it upon myself to protect two fugitives who were chained together and on the run in the 1930s by hiding them in a haystack behind my barn on my dustbowl farm like in that Coen Brothers movie that made bluegrass mountain music famous.  I lied with a poker face to the angry constables who caught me red-handed as I was giving the escapees food and ammunition that I had anything to do with the fugitives known to be in the area  … and while I had been about to send them on their way, instead, now, I was cuffed and beaten and dragged to the precinct and fingerprinted and jailed and arraigned and incarcerated for my pretrial period, unable to muster enough bail due to my failed crops, and I found myself rotting in prison for a measly seventy years, the record of my case being lost due to an idiotic clerical error and then found later, much, much later—

Once, I was on trial for aiding and abetting fugitives, both of whose names and faces now elude me after these long decades of scratching years into the concrete walls of my cell like footprints across the sands of time;  scratch scratch went the sharpening edges of my shank into the concrete;  and now, no matter how hard I try not to do so, whenever I try to remember the incident that got me into such trouble I picture the two fugitives like cartoon characters of the period, specifically Donald Duck and Porky Pig, and they in scratchy black and white while the rest of the memory framing them is in Technicolour, the arresting police officers taking on the forms and mannerisms of the monkey minions from The Wizard of Oz, and heralded by their ominous marching music from the movie’s score, Ho-Hee-Hoeing their way into my barn, and answering to a Wicked Witch of the West for a chief—

Once I was on trial for this crime and I found myself cross examined.  The Crown Attorney, X_________, was, it was well-known, a secret imbiber of printers’ ink, and the founder of Printers’ Ink Inc., a front for his addiction wherein he printed pamphlets advocating fruitarian dieting and  New Age religious books with copious quantities of the dark-stained urine consequent of his habit, who would often speak with his lips stretched over his teeth like a parody of a toothless old man in an effort to hide his blackly stained teeth from public view, and whose ink-soaked brain led him to fits of madness in court such as breaking into frenetic impersonations of barnyard and forest animals in the midst of cross-examinations, which happened right there in the courtroom as he circled the box in which I sat in full view of all assembled, and he suddenly made rabbit ears above his head with his fingers and made comical buck teeth by way of an exaggerated overbite, and he squatted down and began hopping, and, after a moment of bafflement and consternation by the assembly, he broke into a bloodcurdling, piercing scream, a mortal rabbit’s scream, a noise such as a rabbit would make as it were pounced on by a hungry fox.  His scream was interrupted by the judge, who shouted angrily, “Order in the court!  Order in the Court!”  and who punctuated his stentorian bellow with the crack of his gavel from way up high on his desk that loomed above all who were gathered.  Being, in fact, a munchkin (at least as I remember him), the judge loomed behind his desk from atop a stack of legal books and photo albums filled with erotic turn of the century French postcards and boxes full of money and heirlooms and jewellery taken as bribes from would-be imprisoned and condemned folks who had such means at their disposal, all of this piled on his stool to increase his diminutive height—

“Order in the Court!”  His shouts were met with silence, and the Crown Attorney regained his composure.

“I am sorry, your Honour,” said the Crown Attorney, and he looked up at the judge, whose livid face was softening back to a porcine pink as he calmed down after his angry yelling, and who was now readjusting his wig as though it were a curtain blown by the wind.

“One more outburst like that and I will have you charged with contempt of court,” the judge asserted.  The Crown Attorney resumed his cross-examination:   “What motivated you to harbour the two criminals Porky Pig and Donald Duck, who had escaped from Alcatraz*, and who had caused such mayhem on their furlough as to more than equal the deeds that sent them to prison in the first place?”

I had no answer.  From the left, across the court room, I heard a sneeze.  I looked in the this direction, the direction of the jury, the source of the sneeze that punctuated the silence of my non-answer.

Let it be known:  I feared the jury.  I forget their faces now, and though I’ve tried, I can picture only the Seven Dwarfs from Disney’s Snow White, hand-painted and pastel-coloured and animated in their seats;  all seven dwarfs, with Sneezy sextupled in my mind so as to make a full (and noisy) twelve;  and across the years, as I tell this tale, I am distracted by the chorus of wheezing and sneezing and grumping and grouching and laughing and snoring emanating from the jury box—

My inability to answer the Crown Attorney’s question brought out a great horror in me.  I started to tremble.

My own attorney, a Queens’ Counsel by the name of Z_______, and who was known, from time to time, to go into paroxysms wherein he thought he was spontaneously combusting, and who would roll around and shriek to this intensely imagined effect, stood up and asked the judge, “Your Honour, is it not possible for the court to rest?  Can you not see that my client is ill-fit to be standing trial at this very instant?  As ill-fit as the Crown Attorney is to prosecute given his recent outburst?”   At which point his eyes bugged out, and he clutched his arms as he was consumed in the imaginary inferno of his own body, and he began rolling around and shrieking, much as I have just described.

“Order!  Order in the court!” shouted the judge.  He tapped the gavel repeatedly on his desk as my lawyer writhed around on the floor as if possessed by demons.  “I call a recess!”  At this he brought down his gavel with such force that the whole illusion was shattered, the very scene in front of my eyes smashing with crystalline clarity into shards and splinters, and I found myself in reality, or whatever stood for it at this level of consciousness, standing in my neighbour’s flower garden, missing my pants and urinating on a rose.  Again.

From a nearby window, someone giggled.

*  I recognize that Alcatraz is a defunct American prison, and that this is Canada, but I forget where the two fugitives escaped from and I feel that Alcatraz is commonly known enough to readers to serve as an appropriate stand-in.

A Bit of Running Advice

So today I went running and while running, stride by stride, I thought it would be a nifty idea to take a new route from my usual one of leapfrogging over fences and through the backyards of fellow suburbanites and occasionally surging in through their unlocked backdoors while they stare in surprise with their forks in their hands and food suspended in midchew as I dash by them in the suddenly silent midst of interrupted conversations of what did you do at school today and how about those Leafs/Jays/Raptors or cold today, isn’t it, and please pass the butter, and out through the front door with the family toy poodle nipping at the back of my ankle trying for my Achilles Heel, but little does the little dog know that to get to that it has to get into my soul and for that it is simply not equipped psychically to dive deep into that sea of flotsam and sunken cities of memory and find my insecurities like wetting my pants at nursery school or, worse, wetting somebody else’s, and just how would that happen, exactly;  so as I was running, I, as I said, took a new route from the one elaborated above, which for all the excitement inherent in that approach, had come to feel a little boring, as there are only so many strangers’ homes you can streak through and get an adrenaline rush before the thrill wears off, so I left my house in my brand new sneakers and stopped traffic;  that is, I was wearing brand new sneakers and I STOPPED traffic, rather than  I was WEARING stopped traffic, as that would mean I would be splattered in the grille of a vehicle stopped by me, or I would perhaps be squashed between two vehicles and that would be no good thing, and how would I be narrating this exactly;  and as I ran and stopped traffic, surprised eyes stared out at me from mundane tasks like shovelling the driveway and then I realized I had only my sneakers on;  well, so what?  What else does a runner need in this world except for his running shoes?  So on I went jogging though I felt a bit cold below the waistline, I must admit, and so I will, and in fact just did admit, and after I got down the street  I pried loose a manhole cover and climbed down the rusty, skinny ladder, landing in runny, filthy water filled with dirty icy flotsam and jetsam, and so I merrily splashed along getting my aerobic fix until I heard ahead of me a chiming chorus of bells, bells, bells, bells, like in that Edgar Allen Poe poem, and then I realized that was just in my head but what an interesting incongruity that forms so it stays, bells in my head chiming and that’s when I turned the corner and came upon a fancy parlour, vaguely Edwardian, with fin de siecle European aristocratic types with white military jackets and monocles and medals and wigs and waxed and teased moustaches sitting around the mahogany table discussing politics and art while sipping port and smoking cigars and pipes, and they took no notice of me whatsoever even though I pulled up a chair and sat with them and availed myself of a Havana cigar and smoked it in their company and listened intently to their imperialist intrigues as they began  talking up, bit by bit, the First World War, perhaps not realizing what they were getting into, which I tried to avert by pointing out that it was to be a horrible catastrophe in which Europe nearly commits suicide and unleashes in full the mechanized slaughter of modern warfare, and which would lead to an even bigger war later, so let’s all just get along, shall we, but they took no notice of me, as I said, so I smoked my cigar quietly and wondered, did they not listen to me because I’m naked?  Because I’m wearing running shoes?  My cigar finished, I continued my journey, leaving world history to unfold as it has and continues to, though not for lack of trying to alter it for the better, and I emerged from another manhole cover 100 metres from the one I entered and arrived home safely 93 years after the Armistice and 20 minutes after the beginning of my run, refreshed and reinvigorated.

So, as an avid runner, I would suggest altering your route on occasion—it keeps things interesting.